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Averting a teacher shortage in Harford County

Union leaders seek reforms to counter exodus of educators
Posted at 5:28 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 17:28:52-05

BEL AIR, Md. — In spite of all of the preparations, the pandemic has taxed teachers and their support staff, and Chrystie Crawford-Smick says many have reached their limit, including more than a hundred who quit or retired by the holidays.

“There have been more in the month of January,” said Crawford-Smick. “Our records, we were just verifying, indicated that it’s over another 20 additional folks who have left the district in the month of January, alone. Maybe closer to 30.”

Crawford-Smick is the president of the Harford County Education Association, and while Harford County public school teachers didn’t get any of the cash bonuses seen in other districts, the focus has turned elsewhere.

Union leaders have negotiated what may be the largest cost of living increase in the state for teachers in Harford County this fall, but there’s concern that won’t be enough.

Crawford-Smick says salaries, which could impact their pensions, may be another means of retaining and attracting teachers, as well as systematic reforms aimed at their workload, addressing mental health and behavioral concerns in the classroom.

Otherwise, the future looks dim.

“Teacher preparation programs have seen a decrease in enrollment so there are less people who are pursuing the field and there are less people willing to stay. There is a serious crisis that’s coming and it’s very concerning,” said Crawford-Smick.

In a statement from the school system, Assistant Superintendent Benjamin Richardson says the hiring and recruitment process is already underway for this fall, and it will scour the East Coast to fill open positions.